A restraining order levied against you can have severe consequences not only in your personal life, but also in your professional life. Even when there are extenuating circumstances, if a restraining order is imposed upon you, you may have to report it to your employer or to your professional licensing board. Reporting such may result in you being place on leave or in termination of your employment if you are in breach of your employment terms. For licensed professionals, reporting a restraining order may result in an investigation into your suitability as a licensed practitioner of your profession.
Even more serious consequences may occur when the restraining order is requested by someone with whom you have a professional relationship. A restraining order may prompt your employer to terminate your position altogether. Even if you're allowed to continue with your employment, you'll be subject to the restrictions of the restraining order, and you may not be able to come into your office space or contact the colleague-plaintiff.
Joseph D. Lento understands how frustrating and complicated a restraining order matter can be for you, and that you deserve every chance to protect your career and reputation.
What is a Restraining Order?
A restraining order is a legal tool designed to protect victims in instances of domestic violence by prohibiting contact between the plaintiff and the defendant. The type of conduct that constitutes domestic violence in New Jersey ranges from the extreme cases of homicide to the more common occurrence of harassment. If a judge places a restraining order against you, you'll be barred from physical or personal contact with the plaintiff and perhaps even their friends and family.
In most cases, the plaintiff seeking a restraining order from you will also be in a domestic relationship with you. Pursuant to New Jersey Law, a domestic relationship for purposes of a restraining order will be between you and (1) someone you're dating or have dated; (2) someone over the age of 18 who lives or lived with you; (3) someone you share or will share a child with; or (4) a current or former spouse.
A restraining order can severely impact your life. If the plaintiff is someone you live with, the judge will bar you from cohabitating and, if you work with the plaintiff, the judge may also prohibit you from accessing your place of employment.
Sexual Assault Restraining Orders
Restraining orders were at one time only available to victims of domestic abuse; however, in May of 2016, the New Jersey Legislature enacted the Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act (“SASPA”). Under this relatively new law, victims of sexual violence may seek a restraining order, also called a protective order, against the individual accused of the misconduct.
Importantly, a restraining order is a civil matter rather than criminal, and as such, the standard of proof required to demonstrate a restraining order is justified isn't as stringent as would be required in a criminal case. Further, criminal charges do not have to be filed in conjunction with a restraining order.
The type of conduct that may lead to a restraining order under SASPA includes:
- Nonconsensual sexual contact
- Nonconsensual sexual penetration
For those in professional environments, a restraining order sought against you for sexual misconduct may devastate your ability to do your job if the plaintiff is a colleague. In many cases, you're likely to be terminated from your job altogether. Some situations may not result in punishment from your superiors or the HR department. Even then, if you and your accuser work in the same office building or your profession requires that you communicate with one another in the course of your day-to-day business, you'll find that a restraining order creates a logistical nightmare.
How Long Do Restraining Orders Last?
There are two types of restraining orders. A temporary restraining order (TRO) will be issued first, and after a short period, the judge may issue a final restraining order (FRO”. In short, the TRO lasts until the judge can determine if an FRO needs to be permanently issued. Due to the protective nature of restraining orders, the process moves quickly.
In seeking a TRO, the plaintiff will submit a petition to the court. In the petition, he or she will allege a prior history of abuse, and the judge will make a decision as to whether immediate intervention in the form of a TRO is necessary. Evidence presented in the TRO hearing can include testimony from the alleged victim or others. It may also include electronic communications or audio recordings.
The second type of restraining order is known as a final restraining order (“FRO”) and may be imposed upon you at the final hearing. The final hearing generally takes place 10 days after the initial hearing that resulted in the TRO. The FRO can make the terms of the TRO permanent or even impose more severe restrictions, depending on the circumstances. It's important you understand that once the FRO is in place, it is permanent. Accordingly, the defense you mount during the final hearing is vital to your professional future when the restraining order directly impacts your job.
When the TRO is issued, you may feel frustrated and like you didn't have adequate time to prepare your defense or voice your take on the situation. Fortunately, the final hearing allows you time to prepare more sufficiently. It's important that you find competent legal representation before your final hearing. An experienced New Jersey restraining order attorney will guide you in preparing the facts so that you can best present your side of the story.
Violating a New Jersey Restraining Order is a Criminal Offense
Many don't realize just how difficult it can be to comply with the terms of a restraining order. Not only do those subject to the restraining order have to keep a specific physical distance from the plaintiff, but the defendant also cannot have any other type of contact with the plaintiff. This includes emails, texts, social media, and so forth. Attempts to communicate through a third party can even violate the restraining order.
Although restraining orders aren't a criminal court matter, the violation of one can result in criminal charges. If you violate a restraining order, even if you do so unknowingly, you can be convicted of criminal contempt.
In some cases, those subject to a restraining order will undertake proactive steps to remediate their behavior. For example, abusive interactions often result when individuals suffer from mental health issues or substance abuse disorders. The right therapies or prescription medications can turn your life around, and when this happens, you may feel like you're in a good place to mend the relationship. While your self-improvement should be applauded, you cannot simply side-step the restraining order even when you've permanently curbed inappropriate behavior. That is not to say you don't have options, but you need to adhere to the court-mandated procedures of appealing or vacating the FRO. An experienced attorney will help ensure you're effectively navigating these court processes.
Appealing a Final Restraining Order Decision in New Jersey
When a judge issues a final restraining order against you, you may be able to appeal the order under certain circumstances. With the assistance of a skilled attorney, you may be able to successfully appeal the FRO when you and your attorney can demonstrate that the judge incorrectly applied the facts, the law, or the evidence. Additionally, if the judge's findings were incomplete, then you can also appeal the FRO.
The timing of the appeal is critical to your success, and all appeals must be asserted within 45 days of the final hearing. Each case is unique, and to find out if your set of circumstances make the FRO levied against you eligible for appeal, contact the Lento Law Firm right away.
Vacating a Final Restraining Order in New Jersey
Another way to relieve yourself of final restraining order restrictions is by having the order vacated. Vacating the order is appropriate when the circumstances have changed—for example, you've either undertaken steps to improve your behavior or the plaintiff has otherwise decided the final restraining order is no longer necessary.
The judge will look at numerous factors when deciding if vacating the FRO is the appropriate measure. Some of those factors include whether or not:
- The plaintiff consents to lifting the FRO
- The defendant has a drug or alcohol addiction
- The defendant has sought out mental health help
- The defendant is subject to restraining orders in other jurisdictions
- The defendant has violated the restraining order
Again, it's important that you seek out the guidance of an experienced attorney when moving through the process of vacating the final restraining order against you. Without experienced legal assistance, you may face setbacks that keep you from moving forward in life and your career.
Talk to a New Jersey Restraining Order Attorney Now
If a restraining order has been levied against you, or you suspect someone you've had contact with may petition the court for a restraining order, you need to seek out experienced legal guidance right away. Restraining order proceedings move quickly, and there is no time to waste. Each case presents its own unique circumstances, and attorney Joseph D. Lento will advise you on your best course of action. To learn how the Lento Law Firm can guide you through restraining order hearings or subsequent actions to appeal or vacate the order, call 888-535-3686 today.